Book of the Month, May 2024 – The Great Divorce

Book cover showing medieval people on a ladder between heaven and hell

For May’s Book of the Month I have chosen The Great Divorce by C S Lewis (1898-1963), first published in 1946 and less familiar than his more famous works, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters. Lewis was a British writer, literary scholar and Anglican lay theologian who held academic positions at Oxford University from 1925-1954 and Cambridge University from 1954 to his death. He served in the First World War, experiencing action in The Somme Valley in France which informed his later descriptions of battle and strengthened his atheism. However, he returned to the Christian faith in 1931, strongly influenced by his fellow academic J R R Tolkein, a fellow member of The Inklings authors discussion group which met in Oxford.

 The Great Divorce is an allegorical novella describing heaven, hell and purgatory in terms of a day-trip bus journey. At the start of the story, a bus stops to pick up people from the rainy suburban gloom of hell, and take them to a land of beauty, yet a place where plants are too sharp to walk upon without hurting the feet. Messengers from the distant golden vista of mountains meet the trippers and encourage them to stay, offering to help them journey across the landscape to heaven. Most of the trippers turn down the messengers’ persuasions, preferring to remain in the familiar thought-patterns of sin that ever condemn them to return on the bus back to hell.

I found this book easy to read, quite witty and very thought-provoking. It explains how small sins such as resentment, self-centredness and intellectual pride are harder to break free from than the grosser sins of flesh such as lust and gluttony, because they are easier to justify; but they are just as deadly. In my own experience, these ‘little’ sins kept me imprisoned in depression for many years – a living hell – until someone helped me see the damage they were doing to me and guided me to change the ways I thought.

This book left a lasting impression upon me, encouraging me to reflect on my momentary thought patterns and to correct those that are less healthy.

So there we have it, May’s Book of the Month! Be sure to check back in June when I’ll be revealing another must read.

Maggie x


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